I wonder if my son is going to remember events like I do. He may decide to change around some of the memories to fit whatever moment he needs. But here’s how it went down.

My son and I embarked on a road trip two years ago, heading to the little-less-than-scenic panhandle of Oklahoma. A stretch of highway with very few curves to the left or to the right that runs around 160 miles across the flatness from the town of May to Boise City. Our destination was the Black Mesa Preserve in the very northwest corner of the state.

Though much of Oklahoma is flat, the high point is up on Black Mesa—a four-mile hike one way, starting on the valley bottom and climbing up onto the ridge. It felt like something out of an old John Wayne western movie.

We had snacks and drinks for the drive of course. And one of the things we had to eat were Fiber One brownie bars—only 90 calories, and damn, if they didn’t taste pretty good. Thirty-six in a box. I think we had ten each on the way out there.

Our campsite was at the state park next to the South Carrizo Creek, down a couple hundred yards from where it drained Lake Carl Etling. We saw blue herons, ducks, armadillos, American kestrel, and a roadrunner.

When we started setting up the tent, I noticed my stomach was making noises. It didn’t feel like I was sick…but something was brewing. A little bit later, I found out what it had been. I started playing several John Philips Sousa tuba marches out my back end.

At first I just pretended that nothing happened. Then the boy raised his eyebrows after one particularly robust tune. And either the wind mercifully took it away or the associated stench wasn’t present. Then the boy joined in. We had a little brass section going on. I think it surprised him more than it did me. It was about then that I realized it had been the fiber bars.

And it kept on…and on. After dinner, and the sun had set, I was thinking, Okay…it’s all good now. Nope. It started back up while we were looking up at the endless stars against a sky so deep and black it looked like that moment in a theater when the trailers end and just before the movie starts, except with little pinpoints of light peeking through the curtain.

I don’t know if we disturbed the family two tent sites over, but I didn’t hear any childish giggling from their kids. And I feared throughout the evening that our extravagant flatulence was going to rattle the windows of the glampers nearby.

It didn’t stop when we turned in either. Even in a four-person tent, you don’t really want the other person to be rooting and tooting while you’re trying to sleep. He would get upset with me, then laugh when he let it rip—a couple of times, I thought some beast was trying to rip through the sides of the tent. I would get upset with him, then try to use some subterfuge and squeeze down against the air mattress trying to stifle the noise.

No such luck…it echoed and pinged like some violent rainstick on steroids. At least we weren’t gassing each other out with stink along with the racket. Strange the things a father and son will bond over. It was like I was back in junior high, sitting around on the stone steps with my buddies, seeing who could rip the loudest or longest. But next trip…we’re bringing the Beano if we bring more fiber bars.


The ridge that we climbed up to in order to reach the highest point in Oklahoma.

The flatness of the Oklahoma panhandle outside the town of Guymon.

The panhandle outside the village of Elmwood.

The marker for the highest point on Black Mesa in Oklahoma.